On the 28th February, at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, more than forty governments from every continent in the world delivered a joint declaration raising “serious concern” with ongoing repression and human rights violations in Bahrain, and calling on Bahrain to cooperate with the United Nations and ensure national human rights reform. A similar declaration was made at the United Nations in June of 2012 by twenty-eight states.
The dramatic increase in the number and diversity of countries who signed onto the statement may indicate a rising realization by the international community of the need to take joint action to ensure that Bahrain ends its two year crack-down on pro-democracy and human rights activists in the country that began in response to wide-spread national protests for democratic reform that began in February, 2011, according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
Significantly, the United States and United Kingdom, two of the closest allies of Bahrain joined the statement despite failing to join last year. While other countries who share a history of national struggle for democratic reform, such as Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and India, along with Japan, continued to refuse to join the Bahrain declaration.
The twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council started on the 25th of February and will end on the twenty-second of March.
“This declaration and the broad support it enjoyed from around the world gives us hope that Bahrain might finally be held accountable by the international community for the grave human rights violations it continues to commit on a daily basis against those struggling for democracy and rights in the country,” said Ziad Abdeltawab, Deputy Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
The statement pointed out the continuing harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly in the country, including the use of unfair trials, the revoking of citizenship and other rights violations against these individuals. It also called on Bahrain to use restraint when reacting to peaceful protests, and begin to address the widespread impunity of governmental security forces for human rights violations. Finally, the statement called on the government of Bahrain to cooperate with the United Nations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to ensure implementation of the all the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
“It is a positive sign to see forty-four countries join this declaration. The next step should be holding the Government of Bahrain accountable through concrete action if the human rights situation in the country does not improve. A lack of international action has been one of the main reasons the Bahrain government has lacked the political will to enact sufficient reforms in the country or to begin to seriously address ongoing rights violations” said Maryam Al Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
States that signed onto the declaration included: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay.
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